Thursday, January 12, 2006

You Can’t Keep a Good Journalist Down

When Ted Koppel left ABC News and “Nightline,” the show he built in March 1980 in the midst of the U.S.-Iranian hostage crisis, it was a blow for journalism, but not an unexpected move.

A move some say was long brewing after ABC went behind his back in an attempt to woo David Letterman’s Late Show away from CBS nearly three years ago for the “Nightline” time slot. The sting never left Koppel apparently; on November 22, 2005 he said “I’m Ted Koppel” like he always had, and signed off and concluded his final “Nightline.” The end of an era.

ABC squelched fears of fans fearing the loss of late night news and kept “Nightline” on the air. However the new “Nightline” shares little beyond it’s name with the old iron horse. ABC has taken the show into a news magazine format and in a landscape cluttered with similar shows one has to wonder if there was a need.

Meanwhile, Koppel is back in the saddle. After signing deals with The Discovery Channel last week, he inked a pair of contracts today with National Public Radio (NPR) and The New York Times. It seems that while Koppel was done with his 42-years with ABC and “Nightline” he wasn’t done with journalism. And for that matter, neither were his “Nightline” staff.

Last week, Koppel and “Nightline” executive producer Tom Bettag and eight former "Nightline" staff members signed on with The Discovery Channel to produce and host news documentaries and town hall-style broadcasts for the cable channel. And the deal gives Koppel the freedom to create the pieces in any way he chooses. Opening the door for scenarios in which he could broadcast a new documentary piece one night and follow it up with a town hall discussion on the piece the following night.

Koppel was also named managing editor of Discovery, and his first program for the network is due next fall. But he didn’t stop there.

Today Koppel joined NPR as a senior news analyst. He will contribute analysis and commentary at least 50 times a year for various NPR shows throughout the broadcast day. Additionally Koppel will make himself available for breaking news reports and coverage of special events and will appear on NPR's website and in downloadable programming.

"I have been an unabashed fan of NPR for many years and have stolen untold excellent ideas from its programming," Koppel said in a statement. "It's time to give something back."

At The New York Times Koppel has signed on as a contributing columnist to provide opinion pieces on a periodic basis (read: whenever he feels like he has something to say).

Think about this. In the matter of two weeks, Koppel has signed on to the premier radio station, our nations “paper of record,” and one of the top rated and respected cable channels. And sweetening the pot further none of these contracts come with a daily schedule! They’re all just happy to have him whenever he feels like it.

Look at that, and look at where “Nightline” is now. Koppel built it for a quarter century and the House of Mouse toppled it overnight.

ABC, you ****** up. We’re all thinking it.

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